Daily Archives: February 16, 2017

France 24 : Could Trump unite the divided countries of Latin America?

Could Trump unite the divided countries of Latin America?


Due to President Donald Trump’s protectionist politics, Latin American countries are rallying together. In fact, the USA’s hostility could lead to an historic reconciliation between the region’s key organisations, the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur.

Trump’s win in the United States sparked unprecedented outrage in Latin America. 

As the new American president introduces aggressive policies on immigration and tradetargetting Mexico, Latin American countries have expressed solidarity with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Nieto publicly thanked Latin American governments on 14 February for their support in the increasingly bitter war of words with Trump. 

As early as January 25, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa publicly stated his support for Nieto when he said, “the solution to stopping immigration isn’t walls or borders.”

The Argentinian and Brazilian presidents, Mauricio Macri and Michel Temer, voiced their support on February 6th, by stating that the South American free trade bloc Mercosur would further strengthen its ties to Mexico. 

According to the Colombian daily El Espectador, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile have also sent similar signals.

Reconciliation and free trade 

The Trump issue and the apparent US mistreatment of their Mexican neighbour could lead to a landmark reconciliation between two competing Latin American organisations. 
Currently the countries of Latin America are split between the Mercosur (or Mercosul) and Pacific Alliance organisations. Mercosur, formed in 1991, includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (current suspended), as well as five associate members. The Pacific Alliance consists of four countries: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Historically, the two organisations are rivals. 

As Olivia Ronsain, a specialist in international relations and economics, remarked in a note on Diploweb, the two organisations are built on different models: “We believe that the Pacific Alliance is destined to become, in the short-term, a free trade zone, since it has eliminated 92% of customs barriers,” she explained. “The Alliance aims to evolve into a common market… Unlike Mercosur, the Pacific Alliance is not meant to be a customs union since it will not set up a common external tariff.”

Meanwhile, Mercosur was founded in the 1990s at the instigation of the progressive governments of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Mercosur has a political purpose beyond economic and customs integration, making it more similar to the European Union, if on a smaller scale.

The situation has changed in recent years: 2015 saw the end of Cristina Kirchner’s time in office in Argentina and the beginning of the presidency of Mauricio Macri. In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff was removed from power in 2016 and Michel Temer took over the presidency. The two new leaders are much more open to liberalism and free trade than their predecessors, and therefore much more open to a practical mutually beneficial relationship with the Pacific Alliance.

Macri took a step in this direction last year when he attended the Pacific Alliance’s annual meeting as an observer. His presence sent a clear and unambiguous signal.

Opposing Trump with economic unity

The leaders of Argentina and Chile, Mauricio Macri and Michelle Bachelet are, respectively, currently the temporary presidents of Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, and they are determined to use their positions to bring the two organisations closer together. That closeness could eventually lead to a merger.

The election of Trump may well accelerate the process.

Indeed, on February 12, the foreign ministers of Argentina and Chile announced a large-scale meeting of the ministers of both organisations in April “to deal with the protectionist pressures” from the United States. 

“We want to signal our willingness to move towards more openness, integration and investment,” said Heraldo Muñoz, the Chilean foreign minister.

However, any potential merger is still far off. 

The next few months will be decisive, and the merger may well not happen, as the approaches of the two organisations differ. Chile, for example, has already signed nearly 180 bilateral free trade agreements: how could these existing treaties be made compatible with more closed economies, such as those of Mercosur members Brazil and Argentina?

Saving the Transpacific Partnership Agreement

Trump’s protectionism also seriously undermines the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, even though the USA was originally the driving force. 

The free-trade treaty aimed to remove tariffs between the Pacific countries, bringing together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. But on February 26, 2017 President Trump announced the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the agreement, in adherence to one of his campaign promises.

The US withdrawal could mean the death of the treaty, but Chile, as president of the Pacific Alliance, wants to ensure its future. Chile has called for an extraordinary meeting of the 12 members, to be held on March 14-15 March. China and South Korea have also been invited to the meeting, as their economies stand to be affected if the treaty comes into force.

The objective is to provide new markets for Latin American products.

According to the Peruvian newspaper La Prensa, the logic is simple: in the face of the closure of the US market to Latin American exports, the countries of the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur now want to look in other directions, such as Europe and the emerging economies of Asia.

France 24 : US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies

US ‘Day Without Immigrants’ to protest Trump’s policies


Organizers in cities across the United States have asked immigrants to skip school, work, and desist from shopping on Thursday to demonstrate the crucial role they play in the American economy and way of life.

Actions to mark “A Day Without Immigrants” are unfolding in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Houston, Chicago and New York. The protest gained momentum onsocial media and by word of mouth. Organizers expect thousands of people to participate or show solidarity with workers.

The nationwide event is a response to the policies of US President Donald Trump, whose month-old administration has pledged to increase the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Trump campaigned on building a wall along America’s southern border with Mexico and blamed high unemployment on immigration. As president, he has called for a ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming into the US.

Some of the US capital’s finest restaurants are putting their money where their mouths are: shutting down for a day to protest President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

“For one single day on a weekday, we must come together and unite in absolute resistance in order to reject the system dictating the launch from dehumanization and blatant oppression of those that are not straight, white, natural-born citizens,” reads the social media call to action.

The shutdown aims to show the world “how crucial we are to the basic fundamentals of the United States’ economy,” according to a Facebook post.

The initiative kicked off recently without a central organizer, staying under the radar until some high-profile restaurants in Washington announced their participation, helping the movement gain momentum.

Eateries in New York and Philadelphia have also said they will participate in the one-day protest.

Washington-based José Andrés — an immigrant from Spain who became an award-winning celebrity chef and built a restaurant empire — said on Twitter he is closing five of his establishments to show support for workers.

Doors at one of his restaurants, China Chilcano, remain open to customers, giving employees who do not wish to protest the option to work, his management said.

Some restaurant owners said their employees would be paid, while other workers would take the day off. Andrés did not specify what the case would be at his restaurants.

Andrés is in a legal battle with Trump that came after the chef pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul’s Washington hotel. Andrés cited the Republican’s anti-immigrant comments on the campaign trail as his reason for backing out.

Undocumented immigrants made up about nine percent of employees in the hotel and restaurant industry in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.

In Massachusetts, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College said that through February 21 it would remove or shroud all the museum’s artwork created or donated by immigrants.

In New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation, school officials worried that hundreds of students would stay home on Thursday.

“We respectfully ask all parents to acknowledge that students need to be in class every day to benefit from the education they are guaranteed and to avoid falling behind in school and life,” principals with the Albuquerque Public Schools wrote in a letter to parents.

Students who take part in the protest will receive an unexcused absence, Albuquerque school officials said.

Organizers in Philadelphia said they expect hundreds of workers and families to participate.

“Our goal is to highlight the need for Philadelphia to expand policies that stop criminalizing communities of color,” said Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a nonprofit group that works with the Latino immigrant community. “What would happen if massive raids did happen? What would the city look like?”

The call to boycott comes after last week’s series of immigration raids that rounded up some 680 people — three-quarters of them with a criminal record — for expulsion.

The raids stirred worries in immigrant communities but were not out of line with similar actions carried out under former President Barack Obama.

At least 11 million people are living in the US illegally.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

BBC News: Trump launches stinging attack on media

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump launches stinging attack on media – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38998362

BBC News: Zuckerberg: my Facebook manifesto to re-boot globalisation

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Zuckerberg: my Facebook manifesto to re-boot globalisation – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38998884

BBC News: Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38987028

France 24 : ‘Hold off’ on settlements, Trump tells Netanyahu

‘Hold off’ on settlements, Trump tells Netanyahu


US President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Israel’s prime minister to “hold off” on building settlements on land the Palestinians claim for their future state, yet held back from explicitly endorsing a future Palestinian state.

After weeks of dancing around the issue of expanded Israeli settlements, Trump made the request to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House preceding their private discussions. It is Netanyahu’s first trip to Washington since Trump became president.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Trump vowed to work toward a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians but said it would require compromise on both sides and it would be up to the parties themselves ultimately to reach an agreement.

“I’d like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump told Netanyahu. The right-wing Israeli leader later insisted that Jewish settlements were “not the core of the 
conflict” and made no commitment to reduce settlement building.

While Trump’s call echoed that of past US presidents, who’ve considered Israeli housing construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank an obstacle to a Mideast peace deal, the American leader broke with his predecessors on the idea of a two-state agreement. While such an accord may have once appeared to be the “easier of the two” options, Trump said he’d be open to alternatives if the two sides propose something better.

But the US leader offered no details or clarifications of his position. Giving a convoluted response to a question on whether he backed a two-state solution, he suggested that he could abide by whatever the two parties decided.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said.

No clarity on moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

Setting a congenial tone for the visit, Trump greeted Netanyahu earlier Wednesday on a red carpet rolled out to the White House driveway. The two leaders smiled, shook hands and chatted amiably before heading inside the executive mansion, accompanied by US First Lady Melania Trump and Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

The two leaders were to discuss peace efforts as well as Iran and Trump’s campaign pledge to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Relocating the embassy would signal American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that would infuriate the Palestinians. They claim the eastern sector of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as their capital.

Trump said Wednesday he’d like to see the embassy moved but that he is studying the issue closely.

American presidents have struck a delicate balance in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing the close US friendship with Israel and lavishing the Jewish state with bountiful aid. But recent presidents have also called out Israel for actions seen as undermining peace efforts, such as expanding settlements.

On Tuesday, a senior White House official told the Associated Press that Trump is eager to begin facilitating a peace deal between the two sides and hopes to bring them together soon.

It will be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to determine what peace will entail, said the official, who was not authorised to publicly discuss the leaders’ session before it took place and spoke on condition of anonymity. Peace, not a two-state solution, is the goal, the official said.

State Department officials said they were not aware of any policy shift on the desirability of an agreement establishing an independent Palestine side-by-side with Israel – long the bedrock of US policy in the region.

Three officials said the department was seeking clarification from the White House’s comments, which came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was having dinner with Netanyahu on Tuesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. 


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My Chakra today no.1 

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